Too much emphasis on achievement tests can have negative consequences, says a University of Rochester motivational psychologist.

"We should nurture children's basic curiousity and help them enjoy challenges," says Richard Ryan. "Do that, and children will educate themselves even after schooling ends."When the focus is on achievement tests, he says, "There can be short-term gains in test scores but students don't retain rote learning well.

"The more serious problem is the alienation teachers and students feel when higher scores are the goal, rather than helping students develop competence and confidence in approaching problems."